LONDON: UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is reportedly considering a proposal for influential ethnic minority figures to be featured on a set of UK coins to celebrate Britain’s diversity.
According to ‘The Sunday Telegraph’, plans have been submitted to the Royal Mint to work out some proposals as the Indian-origin finance minister reflects upon a campaign to put influential black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) figures from history on a set of coins titled “Service to the Nation”.
The candidates in the running include Noor Inayat Khan, who was the first Indian-origin World War II spy for Britain, and Khudadad Khan, the first soldier of the British Indian Army to become the recipient of the prestigious Victoria Cross, the highest military award for gallantry in the face of the enemy given to British and Commonwealth forces.
“We propose a specific next theme of service to the nation by black, Asian, and other ethnic minority people, both in military conflict and on the home front,” says Zehra Zaida, an Indian-origin Conservative Party candidate behind the campaign, in a letter to Sunak.
“This theme will unite people, especially now as the nation has come together through the pandemic, and is collectively recognising the heroic work by ethnic minority staff in our health and care services,” according to the letter.
“It is surely essential that this country does not lose another opportunity to demonstrate that the contributions of black, Asian, and other ethnic minority groups are truly valued. Symbols matter and we urge you to support our campaign,” the letter notes.
UK Treasury minister John Glen told ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ that Sunak was “keen to support” the “timely proposal”.
“The Chancellor [Sunak] is reflecting on the letter from Zehra and will reply in due course,” he said.
“We are obviously supportive and keen to be positive about it, we need to see some firm proposals from the Royal Mint but we are keen for this to happen,” he said.
Zaidi’s campaign is supported by several historians including Shrabani Basu, the author of ‘Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan’, and politicians such as Conservative Party MP Tom Tugendhat and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
“I am absolutely delighted that the story of Noor Inayat Khan has inspired so many people and that she has become an icon. Noor was an extraordinary war heroine,” said Basu, the Founder-Chair of the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust.
Zaidi was previously behind a campaign to get the Bank of England to select an ethnic minority heroine for a newly-printed GBP 50 note, proposing Noor Inayat Khan among the options. However, Britain’s computer pioneer Alan Turing was the choice for the new banknote which goes into circulation from next year.